Intersections of Personalized Learning

How do I/we enGauge 21st Century Skills?


The first statement of the NCREL/Metiri Group’s “enGauge 21st Century Skills” white paper declares that “our children live in a global, digital world – a world transformed by technology and human ingenuity.”  Incorporating that technology, whether it be data sources or electronics and human ingenuity, whether it be new contributions to the academic canon or innovations in source sharing, is a struggle in the public school system of the US.  It becomes a struggle because of the vast quantity of children served, by the limited amount of resources, multiplied by the ever advancing innovations in research and technology.

In order to make 21st century learners and incorporate the skills of technology and the embracement of human ingeunity, we need to examine the positive advancements we have made and identify the next areas of grwoth.

Question:  Where you see efforts playing out in terms of strengths and weakness in the way you currently educate students at your school.

Answer: The first statement of each quadrant seems to be at a level where the school district and the individual teacher are achieving.  In the “Digital Age Literacy” quadrant, students need to have “basic, scientific, economic and technological literacies.”  In every discipline across the curriculum at the secondary level, students are assessed in a variety of ways and through a variety of state and national standards. 

Within the “Inventive Thinking” quadrant, students need to demonstrate “adaptability, managing complexity and self-direction.”  I believe that many teachers would be unconfident in their assessment of these skills, but are encouraging and embedding them within their daily classroom in a signficant way through group work, tiered homework assignments and student choice. 

 Within the “Effective Communication” quadrant students are encouraged to have “teaming, collaboration, and interpersonal skills.”  Through the secondary curriculum and particularly now, with the addition of the “Like Skills” grade students will be able to be assessed effectively on how well they participate on an interpersonal level. 

In the final quadrant, “High Productivity” students need to “prioritize, plan and manage for results.”  Its my estimation with the push towards summative assessments students are given more tools than in previous curricula structures, that allow them to see and understand and then work for the appropriate results within their own education.

Question: What areas of the quadrant do you need to strengthen as you managing 21st Century change?

Answer: I believe that there are two places within the quadrants that are in need of becoming more robust within the curricula for creating stronger and more internationally valuable students.  The “Digital-Age Literacy” cites “multicultural literacy and global awareness.”  While I disagree with their use of “multicultural” as a way to talk about other additions to the academic canon that are non-white or non-Western, I believe that it’s a statement that talks about creating a learner that values a wide variety of sources and traditions when they are learning.  In order to take that step, there are pieces of current curricula that will need to go by the wayside in order to incorporate larger bodies of non-Western, but equally valuable work. 

The other component that many disciplines struggle with, at all levels is the use of “higher order thinking and sound reasoning” skills within the “Inventive Thinking” quadrant.  Further professional development and peer coaching could encourage teachers of all levels to better their practice to incorporate higher levels thinking skills at every level.

Based on these quadrants, and our current use of reflection and professional development through Small Learning Communities and Professional Learning Groups I believe that accomplishing at all levels of the enGauge 21st Century Skills is really possible and probable in the next 4-5 years.


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